Thursday, June 1, 1995

When is a Radar Trap a Contradiction?

A visitor from China was riding along in the heartland of America when he noticed and asked his driver and host about the gadgets on the dash of the car.

The top one was the radar detector to warn the driver of speed traps ahead, the American executive explained. The second one was a laser detector because some of the speed traps, in order to outwit the radar detectors, were using lasers instead. "This is high technology in action, you see," the American said partly in jest.

The Chinese thought for a while and then said, "Did you know that the Chinese term for contradiction is literally made up of two characters: "maodun" which stands for spear and shield?

"During the warring states period in ancient China, so the story goes, there were two shops next to each other in the capital. The sign on one store proclaimed that it made the world's sharpest spears guaranteed to penetrate any shield. The other store proclaimed that it made the world's strongest shields guaranteed to block any spear."

Nancy and McDonald, peaceful co-existence

On one of the busiest sections of Shanghai's Huaihai Road, there is a fast food restaurant doing brisk business called Nancy's Fast Food. The logo is the slightly exaggerated letter "N" in one and one half golden arches on an orange red background that McDonald's made famous. A sub-title underneath the restaurant sign reads: Chinese Foreign Joint Venture. If Nancy's had opened in the U.S., the owner would have heard from McDonald's lawyers in no time flat. But this is China and Nancy's owner is said to have powerful relatives. Besides, Nancy's had been in business for almost two years before McDonald's entered Shanghai. McDonald's approach was to open its first restaurant just a few store fronts from Nancy's. In effect, Nancy has introduced the concept of fast food to Shanghai consumers and McDonald's is taking advantage of the built-in stream of customers. Nancy's offers all sorts of fast food but no hamburgers; the last time I looked, both places were busy with lots of customers.

Lesson: In Asia, symbiosis works better than confrontation.